Sepp Blatter yesterday gave a commitment to disclose court papers that give details of alleged bribes paid to Fifa officials as he unveiled his long-awaited reforms that are designed to clean up world football's troubled governing body within two years.
Fifa had previously paid £3.9m to a Swiss court to settle the case of ISL, the marketing company linked to Fifa that collapsed with huge debts in 2001, and seal the files. A court document is said to disclose detail of alleged bribes paid to Fifa officials, including Nicolas Leoz, a current member of the Executive Committee. A BBC Panorama programme last year also alleged Ricardo Teixeira, another ExCo member and the man in charge of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, his father-in-law Joao Havelange, and a third current ExCo member, Issa Hayatou, all accepted bribes from ISL. Leoz, Havelange, Hayatou and Teixeira deny the allegations.
The 41-page "famous ISL document", as Blatter yesterday described it, will be handed to an independent panel that will then report to the ExCo's next meeting in Tokyo in December whether any sanctions are required. After that the document will be made public. A Fifa official said yesterday it would be in the public domain "within months not years." "It is a very complicated case that has very important legal repercussions," said Blatter, who said the decision was reached without dissent among the 20 ExCo members who were at the meeting – three were absent. Blatter also drew attention to the fact that any names that could be revealed are "not Swiss people, only foreign people."
The 75-year-old Swiss said that "100 per cent" of the ExCo backed the proposed measures to combat corruption and that there was "no opposition" to the decision over ISL. There are currently a total of 23 ExCo members of whom seven have been subjected to questions over their conduct.
Blatter laid out what he called "a bit of a Formula One" road map to reform that is scheduled to end at the Fifa Congress in Mauritius in 2013. A Good Governance Committee (GGC) – labelled a "watchdog" by Blatter – will be created to which four task forces will report over the next two years.
The task forces will look into the body's statutes, the break up of the Ethics Committee into two parts – one for investigation, one for decision making – and increase its independence. That particular body will be headed by the current head of the Ethics Committee, Claudio Sulser, who is in effect being asked to reform himself. Another task force, chaired by Leoz's Paraguayan compatriot, Juan Angel Napout, and Frank van Hattum of New Zealand, will consider how to introduce greater transparency. That should see the decision as to which country hosts World Cup finals being made by the full 208-member Congress rather than the ExCo, although the ExCo will draw up a short list.
It is also likely to lead to greater representation for clubs and leagues within Fifa. There will also be some form of Code of Conduct and screening for ExCo members – what campaigners hope will amount to a fit and proper person test. The fourth task force, led by Franz Beckenbauer, will deal with "football".
In what was at times a rambling and confusing presentation at Fifa's headquarters, Walter de Gregorio, the director of communications, insisted "judge us on what we are doing. It's a big step." Blatter said: "We have been rather ambitious in our road map, it's a bit of a Formula One model. By June 2013 in Mauritius there will be the completion of our good governance process."
The peculiarity of Fifa's approach to reform – on the one hand accepting the need for change, on the other downplaying the scale of allegations of corruption and scandal that has dogged the ExCo in recent years – was best summed up by Blatter's declaration that they must "create an image slightly better than the one we have currently." He also dismissed any suggestion that he might step down as a consequence of accepting the need to reform a body he has presided over for 13 years.
The GGC will be 15-strong and include a member of Transparency International, the body that released a critical report into Fifa this summer and has since been advising them how to achieve reform. Blatter suggested the rest will consist of footballers, fans, referees, representatives of the women's game, politicians and "the public at large." Sylvia Schenk, of Transparency International, said: "I think it was a very good result, but it is a first step. A starting point for the implementation – now they can't go back. They have forced themselves to take the next steps. It's quite an ambitious process within that timescale."